Canadian Steve re: Cuba

Old Jan 24th, 2003, 11:21 AM
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Canadian Steve re: Cuba

Hi Steve. I notice you are full of knowledge about Cuba and you have a fabulous website of photos - thanks for sharing, they are great. I am a US citizen and I want to go to Cuba in the spring. I have been attempting to contact cubalinda but so far no success, anyway I will keep trying as I know they do not operate like we North Americans (and I live in NYC where everything is fast!).
A few questions for you:

1) Is April or May a good time to go?
2) I speak some Spanish - do you know of any Cuban Spanish phrase books, seems that would help with local lingo.
3) How about food options if you don't eat red meat? I eat chicken, fish, and love rice and beans.
4) Is bottled water readily available? I went to the former USSR in the 80's and it was difficult to get.

That's about all I can think of right now. Please add any comments or tips. I appreciate your assistance.

Happy Travels! Oh by the way if you like Latin countries and have not been to Costa Rica, I highly recommend it. I've been there 3 times and it's beautiful!
Thanks again, Maura
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 06:19 PM
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Hi Maura:

Thanks for your kind words re: my photos etc.

If you are in NYC, perhaps the best way to head to Cuba would be to book through a Canadian travel agent. You can fly from Toronto or Montreal. Might be an easy way for you. Of course that depends on where you want to go in Cuba and what your preferences are. Explore Havana and its history etc., or find a nice beach to lay and soak up some sun at. Lots of choices.

I'll try to answer your questions.
1) I was there in April 2 years ago and it was wonderful. Nice and warm in the days, but not so hot and sticky as in July. I think the spring is one of the nicest times to explore Cuba.
2)Spanish. I am trying but am stuck at a grade one level. I find languages difficult but it is fun to keep trying. I just use an English/Spanish dictionary (Oxford pocket) and have not had any trouble. Not sure how Cuban Spanish compares to other Latin American Spanish countries. It all sounds the same to me.
3)Chicken, fish is easy to get. Also pork is popular. If you are in Havana and want chicken, I would suggest the Restaurant EL ALJIBE in Miramar offers a great house specialty, Lemon Chicken. Grand and not too pricey. Their wine selection isn't too bad either. Mostly from Torres, a Spanish company, but good none the less. Rice and beans is also very easy to get.
4)Bottled water (Ciego Monterro) is also very easy to get. I think I spelt it correctly. It is available in either carbonated or non-carbonated styles. I have drunk literally gallons of the stuff and never had any problem with it. Available in standard small bottles everywhere and in 2 liter bottles at most grocery stores.

Anything else you need to know, just drop me a note. I check the Cuban postings frequently.


p.s. Is your email address real?
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 06:31 PM
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Hi Maura..not like I'm an expert like our Steve here, but I've found the spanish in Cuba to be the same as what I've heard (and attempted to speak what bits I've managed to learn) on our trips to Mexico if that's at all any help.
I know that there are some local lingo that might not be in any Spanish dictionaries as I remember trying to look up certain words spoken by the staff who we became friends with and no go on finding it...they finally had to explain that it was more of a local word.
You'll be fine with your "some Spanish" and some Spanish phrase books (Fodor's has a good travel one).
Like Steve says, you might want to book a trip out of Toronto..if you want to do a package tour first as an option, check the net for Air Transat or Sunquest or Signature Vacations for all their Cuba destinations. To work with a t.a., try
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 06:34 PM
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Oh, and Maura..good for you. Good for you for grabbing the bull by the horns and asking about this great destination on this board.
Old Jan 24th, 2003, 07:36 PM
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Hi Deb: a.k.a. two cats.

I'm not an expert on Cuba by any means, but I am a traveller who has found a unique culture and very friendly people who's company I very much enjoy.

Also since my first trip in 1998 I have read a lot and taken the time to try and understand the situation, past politics and history of this culturally rich island destination.

Great suggestions for booking a vacation thru Transat etc. Now why didn't I think of that. I normally just book airfare with Cubana or Lacsa (Costa Rican) and make my own arrangements at a Casa Particular in Havana. I know you have done the TA route and that's great as well.

Liked your comments about grabbing the bull by the horns. Wish more travellers felt the same.

Old Jan 25th, 2003, 07:30 AM
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Hi Maura,

I travel to Cuba a lot, and love it there in April. The weather is very hot at that time(bring heavy duty sunscreen), but not as hot in June/July.
For your first time visit, I recommend staying in an all inclusive resort in Varadero which has the most wonderful beach. I found the food at the Tryp Penninsula the best (lots of seafood, chicken, rice and vegetables. And book at the Cuban restaurant there (free))and the beach wonderful, but the Melia Varadero is also a great hotel with an excellent beach, and good entertainment.
From Varadero, I recommend taking the day trip bus tour to Havana for your first visit. I never actually took the tour, but used their transportation to Havana, since I wanted to explore it on my own. But taking the tour probably would have been good for the first time there, and later go on your own the next times you visit. As a female walking with a guy, I still felt uneasy with all the attention and cat calls on Havana's street, and always being bugged. The tour will protect you from this somewhat.
I think the best way for you is to actually book a trip through Toronto ( is great), and only let your US customs and immigration know that you went to Toronto. The Cuban immigration will not stamp your passport but a piece of paper that you must keep to leave Cuba. (Doesn't hurt to mention to them not to stamp the passport). I think that you will love Cuba, and find it very unique to the other Latin countries. Good for you!
Old Jan 25th, 2003, 09:31 AM
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Oh, and I forgot to mention. If you only know the basic Spanish, you won't have any trouble with Cuban spanish. The only difference is the slang and some of the not so nice words. Both slang and bad words are not something that you are going to come across, unless you are fluent Spanish and hanging out with the Cubans on more personal levels. Basic questions and courtesy are no different. As for accents, not much of a difference. If you can recognize English under the New York accent, you'll cetainly recognize the spanish under Cuban accent.
Old Jan 25th, 2003, 04:29 PM
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Hello Cuba lovers! Thanks so much for all your wonderful advice and comments. I really get a lot of useful information from these boards.

I decided that this should be the year to visit Cuba as I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before Starbucks and McDonald's appear and spoil the charm of the country. I visited former USSR in 1989 and saw a way of life that doesn't exist anymore.

I have checked out entering Cuba via Nassau, Bahamas through but not through Toronto. I will certainly check out those Canadian travel agents. It seemed Nassau was cheaper but if the rates are quoted in Canadian dollar, with the exchange it may be a better deal. I will investigate.

Thanks for the info on the food - I'm sure I will be fine. I live in a latin neighborhood in New York and am very familiar with a lot of dishes.

I'm not so interested in the beaches in Cuba for anymore than a day trip. I am interested in the historical sites as well as hearing live music and just hanging out absorbing daily life.

If you have any further information, please email me at [email protected]. I will also continue to frequent these boards.

Thanks again everyone
Old Jan 25th, 2003, 05:21 PM
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Hi Maura,

I am Cuban and I'm also planning on going to Cuba in March, 2003. I have family there that I have not seen since I was 5 years old and that was in 1961. You wanted to know what time of the year is best to travel to Cuba? We are going in March because any later and you will be into the high heat and high humidity season. It is funny to me that you said, Cuban Spanish, because most everyone I have met assumes that all Spanish is Mexican Spanish, there is a bit of a difference. Don't worry to much about your Spanish, from what I understand People in Cuba really try to make an effort communicate. By the way, Bottled Water is readily available if you know where to buy it and that will be at a good U.S. DOLLAR MARKET! The locals are not allowed any luxuries unless they have U.S. DOLLARS, that they have to buy as well. Make sure you are shopping at a good market, because I understand, that unless you see sealed cases of individually bottled water, the one you buy may not be all that good. Unfortunately it happened to one of my relatives, who traveled to Cuba a few years ago, but I have been assured that water is available. The main thing you have to watch out for is the lack of sanitation, don't eat anything that is not cooked thoroughly! In other words stay away from fresh un-cooked foods. I have been doing allot of reading and a book that was recommended to me was the "Rough Guide" and "The Lonely Planet"! Well I hope I have contributed answers to your questions. Good luck with all your travel plans and hope you have a lovely time. Almost forgot; don't forget the mosquito repellent the strongest you can find. If you would like me to help you with any other questions, Please feel free to write me back. Look forward to hearing from you.

California, U.S.A.
Old Jan 26th, 2003, 08:26 AM
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Just a note to those that suggested travel via Canada. I looked at the website for those t.a.'s mentioned and it seems to me that they deal only with the all inclusive beach resorts which I am not interested in. Does anyone know of any tour operators that do packages out of Canada similar to what offers? If you look at their website, they have a big variety - cycling tours, salsa, city/country/beach (what I'm interested in). Thanks again for all your help.
Old Feb 5th, 2003, 03:27 AM
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Maura another option is to fly via another carib country. I have flown to Cuba via Jamaica for instance on Caribana.Ask the Canadian charter airlines like Air Transat if you can book flight only rather than an all inclusive. I have done this for other destinations.
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